“The Second Reformation”

Mark 12:28-34

October 31, 2021

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Mark 12:28-34

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

| Centering Prayer |

Johann Tetzel was

First the messenger, and

Secondly, the project manager.

The message was a difficult one to swallow

Even for this faithful servant.

The cultural and language gulf was enormous.

The request was directed by his superiors towards those

Who had nothing to left to give,

Who had suffered difficulties and calamities,

Famine, plague, crime, and war.

You can’t get blood from a stone.

He transverse the Alps.

As he journeyed through the fiefdoms and villages of Europe

Refugees and immigrants were common,

All in search for a better life.

A third of the dwellings he passed lay empty,

Their families the victim of a raging pandemic,

The plague, or Black Death, it was called.

It was a global tragedy

Unlike any seen before, or since

(Including COVID-19).

Johann’s project was to lead a successful stewardship campaign for the church in Germany.

His efforts would not use the tried-and-true stewardships tools familiar to us today.

No letters.

No every-member visitations.

No pledge cards to return.

No celebration Sundays.

Raising money for a cause de jure  wouldn’t work.

Why build a new cathedral when the current one was perfectly good?

Construction and fund raising planned for 120 years?

What kind of crazy evil-genius would indebt this generation

And the next two or three to come?

Oh, yeah. One who was believed to be infallible.

Johann, like every other emissary from the Holy See,

Was directed to visit every parish priest in their assigned jurisdiction,

Inform each how much they had to annually raise,

And empower the clergy with the necessary means of raising the funds.

Their authorized technique?

Selling indulgences.

What’s an indulgence?

The Church of Rome taught that it is

“a way to reduce the amount of punishment one has to undergo for sins.”

His marketing intelligence was high.

Johann came up with the jingle that had a nice ring to it in German:

“As soon as the coin the coffer rings,

The soul from purgatory springs.”


Johann had been quite successful until he came to Wittenburg and

Came face to face with the professor and parish priest, Martin Luther.

Forgiveness is God’s alone to grant, the university professor taught,

And it was wrong of those who claimed indulgences absolved buyers

From all punishments and granted salvation.

“Christians,” he said, “must not slacken in following Christ on account of such false assurances.”

Christ alone forgives our sins.

Christ alone saves us into eternal life.

On October 31, 1517

504 years ago on this very day,

Martin Luther put pen to paper,

Listed 95 complaints related to the oppressive indulgences of the Pope, and

Nailed them to the front door of the Wittenburg church.

Luther’s “Ninety-five Theses”

Would have barely caught the attention of his supervisor, let alone the Pope,

Had it not been for the invention of the newest social media platform of the day:

The printing press.

Gutenberg’s printing press provided the means

For the rapid spread of Luther’s complaints in the common language.

The spark was set to kindling and

The fire of the Protestant Reformation began to rage.

The Roman Catholic Church divided and Protestant protest denominations

Started to spring up, mostly among national influences.

Individual parishes had to make a decision.

Ordained clergy also had a decision to make.

Remain in the Roman Catholic Church

(Pay indulgences and pay for the new St. Peter’s cathedral in Rome for the next 120 years), or,

Break away and join up with a new denomination

Under the Protestant umbrella.

A fresh start

With a new piece of canvas.

Should I stay or should I go?

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Let’s keep it simple, beloved.

Hear the voice of Martin Luther:

“Christians must not slacken in following Christ on account of such false assurances.” (Luther)

Listen to the voice of Jesus and follow his commands:

‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Jesus)

Most of us are aware

Of a similar division that is approaching the United Methodist Church.

The forces that are tearing apart people, parishes, and pastors

Are related to theological differences about human sexuality.

But it runs deeper than that.

Plurality and tolerance was once embraced

When the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren denominations

Merged in 1968 to form The United Methodist Church.

It was a big tent time and almost all theologies were welcome.

That age has ended.

Theological cracks began to form early on

And have only grown and spread.

Have you noticed?

The world has become more divided, partisan, and intolerant

Since 1968.

Good Christians don’t need to agree on everything.

Good Christians only need to keep their eye on Jesus.

Division is coming.

A unity that keeps us fighting

Is not a unity I’m praying for.

A unity that allows each deeply divided side to be at peace

And focus all efforts on following Jesus

Is the unity that I’m praying for.

Let’s keep it simple, beloved.

Hear the voice of Martin Luther:

“Christians must not slacken in following Christ on account of such false assurances.” (Luther)

Listen to the voice of Jesus and follow his commands:

‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Jesus)

An insightful article in “The Atlantic” caught my attention this past week.

“The Evangelical Church is Breaking Apart,”

“Christians must reclaim Jesus from his church.”

By Peter Wehner

Suggests to me that an even larger division is coming,

One that may be thought of as a second Reformation.

Wehner paints an American landscape of Christianity

Already greatly divided,

Well before the pandemic hit.

He writes,

“The root of the discord lies in the fact that many Christians have embraced the worst aspects of our culture and our politics. When the Christian faith is politicized, churches become repositories not of grace but of grievances, places where tribal identities are reinforced, where fears are nurtured, and where aggression and nastiness are sacralized. The result is not only wounding the nation; it’s having a devastating impact on the Christian faith.”

He observes

Worship is transformed into entertainment.

Teaching doesn’t come from the church but from the media that individuals consume.

Scripture and Biblical ethics are distorted to fit the politics.

This thought prevails:

What I believe is under assault and I need to fight to protect it.

Wehner warns us of history repeating itself,

“Once Christians gained political power under Constantine, that beautiful loving, sacrificing, giving, transforming Church became angry, persecuting, killing Church. We had forgotten the cross.”

We should fear future inquisitions and crusades

As much as we are convicted by or sinful past.

The choice of a potential second reformation is between

Jesus and the Gospels, or,

Rugged masculinity and Christian nationalism.

My belief and experience lead me to believe Wehner is spot on and we should heed his warning.

Self-awareness is the first step in transformational change.

Keep it simple.

Hear the voice of Martin Luther:

“Christians must not slacken in following Christ on account of such false assurances.” (Luther)

Listen to the voice of Jesus and follow his commands:

‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Jesus)

Choose Jesus and his Gospels.


“Crying Out Loud”

October 24, 2021

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Mark 10:46-52

They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

| Centering Prayer |

Crying Out

Growing up, I loved the Bob Newhart sit-coms;

Both the early series where Bob is a Psychiatrist

And the later series where Bob and his wife own and operate a bed and breakfast in Vermont.

Three characters in the second series have left an indelible impression on my memory:

Larry, his brother Daryl, and his other brother Daryl.

It was absurdly funny to think that two brothers would be named the same.

Neither spoke; they didn’t have to.

Their introduction each week kept the laughs rolling.

If they could have spoken, what would they say?

Were they silent due to an intellectual challenge?

Or were they quiet because of an overbearing older brother?

Maybe they were just the quiet sort?

Two brothers with the same names;

Now that’s funny.

In a similar funny sort of way,

We are introduced to our main character in today’s Gospel:

Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus.

Now that’s funny!

Did you catch the joke? It was meant to make you laugh.

The Gospel author named this blind beggar twice:

Bartimaeus, would have been Bar, or, son of, Timaeus.

In the translation from Hebrew to Arabic

Every New Testament scribe would have burst out laughing and slapped their knee in delight

When they copied the Gospel from one scroll to another:

This man is redundantly named: Son of Timaeus son of Timaeus.

Every town has its character

And our Gospel author is painting a portrait of Jericho’s.

Jericho was an Arab settlement at the time of Jesus (and still is today),

So unlike Jewish towns,

The beggars would be right downtown.

Think small town life.

Everyone knows the son of Timaeus.

It was such a shame that he lost his sight in his younger days.

Now he sits on Main Street (Jericho really only has a Main Street) all day long,

Rattling his tin cup and shouting out to anyone he hears passing by.

The unknowing traveler gets the

Bartimaeus treatment.

#BartimaeusTreatment should be trending on Twitter, by the way.

The Bartimaeus treatment was

The loud, bombastic appeal of a persistent, blind ragamuffin. 

At the same time,

Other travelers would be quietly sneaking past on the other side of the road

Hoping the brash and obnoxious son of Timaeus with two first names

Wouldn’t hear them.

Those who know the son of Timaeus son of Timaeus

Avoid him.

They go out of their way to not deal with him.

They marginalize him.

They keep him contained.

Take a moment to reflect on the people in your social circles.

Who do you avoid?

Who do you marginalize?

“Life would be so much easier if I didn’t have to deal with ____________”

Who are the people in your life with two first names?


Being Healed

Like a fisherman watching a group of anglers headed towards a secret fishing hole

The crowd of enthusiastic people are encroaching on Bartimaeus’ turf.

That gives an edge to

son of Timaeus son of Timaeus.

It makes him a bit cranky.

If he was going to be heard, he had to amplify his message a bit,

Add some spice,

Up his game,

Stretch the truth.

The crowd expected Jesus to become king,

“So why not stretch it out a bit and give him a royal title,”

son of Timaeus, son of Timaeus probably thought to himself.

Look at me!

Pay attention to me!

Coins don’t magically appear in my cup.

Making a scene draws attention.

Attention puts coins in my cup!

“Jesus, son of David!”

A king has money to spare,

“Have mercy on me”

He says as he rolls his diseased eyes and extended his cup

Giving it a little rattle.

Members of the Chamber of Commerce probably had a conniption.

“Can someone please shut that man up!”

That’s just asking for it,

Like poking a hornets’ nest twice,

Like pouring gasoline on a fire.

When Bartimaeus wouldn’t be silenced

The annoyed crowd stopped attempting to mussel him.

They said to him,

“Take heart; get up, he is calling you.”

Something profound begins to take place in his soul.

How do we know?

Consider his actions.

Here’s a hint.

Bartimaeus throws off his cloak.

Blind, begging, homeless ragamuffins

Don’t just jettison clothing, even if they are just rags.

Throwing off his cloak means

The son of Timaeus knew his life as he knew it

Was over.

He isn’t coming back to retrieve it.

Hey! Rich, young ruler: take note.

Son of Timaeus son of Timaeus gives away all that he has

When he tosses his cloak,

Leaving it for the competition,

Leaving it for his fellow beggars.

Faith throws a cloak.

Jesus doesn’t make spit.

Neither does he touch his eyes.

Jesus simply commands him to be healed:

 “Go; your faith has made you well.”

Imagine that.

The one person the crowd wanted to marginalize in the worst sort of way

Ends up having more faith than all of them put together.

And that faith is sufficient to restore a blind man’s sight.

Those people in your life I had you reflect upon just a few moments ago?

Those who you’d like to forget, avoid, or just wish they’d go away?

What faith might they have? …

That causes Jesus to stop,

Stand still,

Call them close,

And heal them?

Faith is contagious.

Allow yourself to be exposed to the faith of those you’d prefer to avoid or make disappear.

Like a virus

Faith exposures

Can, and will, deepen your faith

grow your life,

draw you closer to God.

Following Him on the Way

With the immediacy of Mark

Son of Timaeus son of Timaeus

Regains his sight and

Follows Jesus on the way.

Like some tech companies who leave special Easter Eggs in their web pages,

Our Gospel author

– The same one whose humor is given voice by the naming redundancy –

Leaves us another delightful Easter Egg.

Here, then, is a deeper hidden message for Christians to hear:

“The Way” was a coded phrase,

Often repeated in the Aramaic oral tradition with a wink and a nod,

Meaning the journey of discipleship;

Following Jesus that leads to suffering, death, and resurrection.

To follow Jesus in “The Way” means

You are willing to join with Jesus as your companion;

You’re willing to suffer with him in his humiliation, whips, scorn, and crown of thorns;

You’re willing to die with him on a cross;

And You expect, simply by shear faith,

To be resurrected with him into eternal life.

Son of Timaeus,

Who had sight and lost it by some unknown circumstances,

Only to have his sight miraculously restored by Jesus,

Now leaves his begging cup and cloak behind and

Joins the journey with Jesus that leads to the cross and empty tomb.

The son of Timaeus will suffer like Jesus,

Will die like Jesus,

And will live again in the resurrection of Jesus.

Many of us hope “the Way” for us

Is suffering and death LITE,

With a special second helping of that whole eternal life bit.

“I’d like to have a sharp mind and healthy body, die in my sleep, and have those pearly gates swing wide open for me to enter.”

Isn’t that what most hope for?

Truth is,

To live is to suffer.

To die is universal.

To be resurrected is our Christian expectation.

Truth is,

If we want to follow in “The Way”

We must follow the divine One who was marginalized

And is largely relegated to the sidelines as irrelevant by today’s society.

If we want to follow in “The Way”

We must join a crowd

Of those we’ve previously marginalized, avoided, and treated with contempt.

If we are going to journey with Jesus together

We better start building bridges with one another,

Especially with those who cause us to shrug our shoulders

And we’d rather not even think about.

Following in “The Way”

Causes us to confront our own biases and prejudice.

Following “The Way”

Invites each of us to a deeper spiritual life.

Life’s journey is easy with friends;

But there is not much growth with such shared experiences.

Jesus didn’t come to heal the healthy!

He came to heal the sick and save the sinner!

Life’s journey along “The Way” of Jesus

Is where faith is nurtured, grown, and deepened.

It is where healing pours into the vessel of faith.

It is where lions lay down with lambs,

Opposites attract,

And disagreements are put aside.

Going with the flow on “The Way”

Makes us One with Christ and

One with each other.

Let us be united

On “The Way.”


“You Want Some of This?”

October 17, 2021

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Mark 10:35-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

| Centering Prayer |

I was a big fan of the HBO series, The Sopranos.

Tony Soprano was a New Jersey crime boss who ruled his criminal empire with an clenched, iron fist.

His captains: Christopher, Sil, and Paulie …

Each climbed their way to the top of the organization.

All three of them were constantly maneuvering to be Tony’s favorite and successor.

A good boss has a succession plan.

Tony Soprano was no different.

He was constantly testing and grooming his captains.

On numerous occasions Tony and one of his boys

Would get into a BIG DOG confrontation.

Tony would emerge triumphant.

Enraged, he’d ask, “You want a piece of me?”

Then he pinned them to the floor and showed him his clenched fist.

“You want some of this?”

The message was clear: if you want to be the Boss, you have to best the Boss.

I must confess,

Our Gospel message for this morning made me think of The Sopranos.

Three observations.

1. You want some of this?

You must be baptized into Christ, and  tempted by the Devil.

“So, John and I were thinking,” James stammers.

<Eyes shift left and right>

“Can we ask you a favor?”

“What is it?” Jesus asks, knowing full well the answer to his question before he asks it.

<Eyes roll back>

“Can we sit at your right and left hand when you are crowned king?”

James and John had expectations that didn’t include a cross.

They were hoping for a throne instead.

“If you want some of this” Jesus points to himself,

“You have to join me in my baptism.”

On the surface, this sounds like a simple request.

James and John fall for it without thinking it through.

“We are able.”

They were probably thinking of that glorious moment

When Jesus rose from the water,

The heavens parted,

The dove descended and

The voice of God spoke from the heavens,

“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

“We are able,” they boldly proclaimed with sugar plums dancing in their heads.

<Jesus closes his eyes and shakes his head>

This probably was not Jesus’ intention.

My guess is that Jesus was thinking about what happened after his baptism.

The launch of his public ministry began

With him driven into the wilderness,

Cold and hungry for 40 days,

Enduring multiple, repeated, merciless temptations from the Devil personified.

You want a piece of me?

Those who are baptized in Christ,

As each of us are here today,

Will face the same severity of trials and temptations Jesus did.

We will not be sheltered, protected, or hidden away by God.

Rather, being baptized in Christ,

Disciples of Christ are given the assurance

That the same Jesus who bested the Devil in the wilderness

Will be the same Jesus who is right by your side when you face your 40 days with the Devil.

I’m counting on it.

I don’t know about you;

But I’m not strong enough to endure the world’s pain and suffering, trials and temptations alone.

The only way I’ve been able to survive to this point in my life

Is by keeping Jesus by my side.

During a formative period in life

I swam laps three times a week

At the local High School.

My goal was not to lose weight or count laps.

I was the slowest swimmer in the pool.

Others sported fancy Speedo’s.

I wore high drag cargo suits.

I was there for other purposes.

My goal was to discipline my mind and focus on Jesus for 40 minutes at a time.

No cell phone.

No interruptions.

Just the silent sound of rushing water.

I had two strategies.

The first was to say the Jesus prayer one time for every two or three strokes:

“Lord Jesus Christ,

Son of God,

Have mercy on me.”

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Pull, breath, glide, repeat.

The second strategy was to recite in my mind as much of the Gospel as I could remember:

Starting in Matthew with the descendent list from the line of Jesse, and

Ending with “Low, I will be with you always, to the end of the age” as the risen Jesus ascends into heaven.

There is a lot in between.

There is great treasure in the details.

It would take me multiple days to complete even snippets of a narrative.

Recall, recite, rinse, repeat.

It is amazing how much can be reconstructed after a lifetime of reading, studying, and preaching the Gospel.

As you go through your regular routine,

give it a try.

In silence

Feel the river,

Watch the fire,

Walk the trail,

Hike the woods,

Peddle your bike,

Paddle your kayak forward

With Christ at your side.

2. You want some of this?

You must drink of the cup that Christ drinks, and die with him on the cross.

“Yes, we’d like to sit at your right hand and your left hand,” James and John requested.

You want some of this?

Then “you must drink of the same cup that I drink,” Jesus responds.

One thing about Jesus,

Is that when he hosts a gathering and he shares a meal

He does it nearly the same way every time.

Remember when he fed the crowds with five loaves and two fishes?

He took the bread,

Gave thanks to God,

Broke the bread, and

Shared it with the people.

It was the same formula in the Upper Room.

It was the same formula after a day on the road to Emmaus.

And it was the same formula remembered and written down in Paul’s first epistle to the church in Corinth.

Undoubtedly, Jesus had fed his disciples, including James and John,

Numerous times,

Both recorded and not recorded,

Following the same Sacramental formula.

James and John had expectations that didn’t include a cross.

They were hoping for a free meal instead.

“We are able,” they eagerly replied.

Their response reminds me of

A candidate for ordination

Giddy with anticipation

Of the new privilege about to be entrusted to them;

Celebrating the Sacraments for the first time.

What an incredible privilege it is to

Baptize a baby and

Celebrate the Eucharist.

36 years later,

It remains a humbling, fearful, exhilarating, awe-filled experience.

“We are able,” James and John declared.

What a guy.

What a pair.

When we share in the cup of Christ,

We also share in his death.

Death is not nearly as cool or glamorous as giving thanks, breaking and sharing bread and cup.

Twelve hours is a long time to hang and bake in the hot Middle East sun.

Hands and feet pierced.

Flies buzzing around.

Sweat dripping.

Thirst growing.

Breathing labored.

The crowd watching for that final  breath.

Twelve hours is a long time to hang there and think

About what you’ve done and what has remained undone.

It is a long time to have a dirty sponge filled with vinegar shoved into your face.

It is a long time to be all alone in the middle of a crowd.

Have you ever set vigil with someone dying?

It is an experience that can’t be forgotten.

There is fear of what is coming.

Anxiety grows as

The diaphragm weakens,

Fluids migrate,

Pain medication is applied.

Often, there are words that need to be said.

There may be good-byes to be made.

There is darkness that descends.

And the abyss comes into view.

I’m a pretty brave guy

– except when it comes to snakes and heights and death.

I don’t fear dying.

I fear dying alone.

I would be a mess of anxiety and depression

If I only had my thoughts with me

When I’ll step through the curtain that defines the end of life,

Hoping on a wing and a prayer that eternal life is waiting on the other side.

My guess is that I’m not alone in very natural mortal fears.

This is what I know:

I know I must have Jesus with me.

That is why I drink of his cup.

When we share in Christ’s cup

We welcome Jesus into our lives.

We walk side-by-side.

We become companions and friends.

Christ is right there,

Present with us when we face our final breath.

Jesus died the death we fear.

He has stepped through the curtain to the other side into God’s glory.

Jesus knows the way.

Jesus is the one I have to have with me when I die.

I hope and pray that you do, too.

The Apostle Paul and many others tell us

To live every day prepared to die.

That means inviting Christ to journey with us,

Right by our side,

Every moment of every day of our life. 

Regardless of the circumstances of our death;

Quick and painless,

12 hours in the hot sun, or

12 years suffering greatly from the agony of a terminal disease;

Jesus Christ,

By our side,

Is the only way to step through into eternal glory.

3. On the right and left of Christ in his glory, is reserved for servants, who like Christ, have given their life for many.

You want some of this?

“Are you able …” Jesus says,

To become a servant and slave of all?

Oh, yes! “We are able!” James and John proclaim proudly.

‘One will sit on the right-hand side of the throne,

The other will sit on the left.

We’ll even arrange for some scantily clad Egyptian women

To stand behind us and cool us with palm branches,’

They are probably thinking to themselves.

Not so fast!

Jesus cools their jets.

“Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant,” Jesus tells them,

“And whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.”

Dismiss the Egyptian slave women,

Pick up their palm branches,

Start cooling the air.

Oh, yes, we want Jesus to be at our side,

Right by our side,

Every moment of every day,

Because, well, you know;

<air quotes>

“That time” will eventually come.

God’s grace might be free, but it isn’t cheap.

Jesus tells his disciples,

And those of us who are here today,

That if you want Christ by your side,

Then dedicate your life to be at the side of others.

As Jesus serves you,

So must you serve others.

As Jesus taught us,

So must we teach.

As Jesus showed us how to live,

So, too, we must follow in his example.

As Jesus forgives,

So must we forgive.

As Jesus loves,

So must we love.

Live a life dedicated to living at the side-by-side serving others:

Don’t pass by on the other side of the road; stop, come to the side of the bloodied man in the ditch and see to his recovery.

Don’t ignore the hungry; stop and feed them.

Listen to the blind calling out from the side of the road, stop, and heal them with God’s love.

Reach out to the prostitute who wants to be made clean, and offer her living water.

Cast out demons from those who have the Devil in them.

Give your life, and I’ll give mine, for the service of others,

Just as Jesus has done for us.

‘You want some of this?’ Jesus asks.

If you want some of Jesus, invite him to your side.

Invite Jesus to travel life’s journey with you.

He will be with you during good times and the dark nights of your soul.

He will be with you when you step through the divide into God’s eternal glory.

Journeying with Jesus

Means dedicating our lives

To the service of others

That, all of us

Might taste and see

God’s grace and eternal glory.


“Getting to ‘Follow Me’”

Mark 10:17-31

October 10, 2021

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Mark 10:17-31

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

| Centering Prayer |

In 1989 I was left an inheritance.

Our neighbor George

Left me his tackle box and all of his fishing equipment.

It was enough to fill the back of his son-in-law’s pickup truck.

George loved the fact

That I led a fishing camp for Junior High boys at Casowasco,

One of our United Methodist Camp and Conference Centers

on Owasco Lake.

I recruited volunteer staff and led this six-day camp

Each summer for many years.

Most of George’s equipment went to support efforts to teach kids to fish.

What remains today, 25 years later,

Is safely tucked away at the family cottage.

It was a privilege to have had George remember me in his will.

With his inheritance has come a few lessons I still ponder.

I didn’t do anything to earn his inheritance.

We were simply friends and neighbors.

Over the years our families grew together.

We both loved to mow our lawns at the same time on our

Nearly identical gray Sear’s lawn tractors.

We both loved being members of the Dresden Fire Department.

During the day when most others were at work

George and I put out a lot of fires together;

Just the two of us.

Inheritance can’t be earned.

Rather, inheritance is about belonging.

Inheritance is about growing, developing, maturing relationships;

Sharing together this journey of life and faith.

I’ve also learned that for there to be an inheritance,

Someone has to die.

This is a bitter lesson.

I’d give back all George’s fishing equipment ten fold

Only to have an afternoon with him talking over the back split-rail fence.

I loved George dearly, and still miss him a lot, 32 years later.

“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

(Mark 10:17)

All of us who follow Jesus

Belong to a pretty special group.

We are known by our love,

Our authentic desire

To lead our lives the way Jesus led his life,

Our desire to discern and follow God’s will, and

Our commitment to live according to God’s Law.

At our baptism we were accepted by God,

Hereafter, we belong.

We are accepted and included.


Inheritance is about belonging.

According to the researcher Erik Carter

Belonging in a community

United by faith

Is about being

  • Present,
  • Invited,
  • Welcomed,
  • Known,
  • Accepted,
  • Supported,
  • Cared For,
  • Befriended,
  • Needed, and
  • Loved.

(Thanks to Professor Erik W. Carter, as found at erikwcarter.com/belonging)

Jesus, the Good Teacher first correctly steers this anonymous man

Towards that which gives identity to Christians,

And to our Jewish ancestors:

Living according to the Law of Moses,

Which came as a gift from God.

We don’t follow laws to belong.

We belong, therefore, we desire to fit in.

We want to follow God’s Law.

Jesus establishes the Law as the bare-bones foundation,

Upon which he builds out the rest of his kingdom.

Eternal life cannot be earned any more than an inheritance.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ grants eternal life for all who accept it.

There isn’t enough righteousness, or right living,

To earn someone a ticket to heaven.

Saying “yes” to Jesus Christ,

Accepting salvation as a divine gift of grace,

Means living in relationship with God and others.

Belonging to the “Eternal Life Club” individually, and collectively,

Means changing priorities.

We don’t live for ourselves.

When we live according to God’s Laws,

We live for others and

We live for God.

When Jesus tells us

“go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor,”

He is calling us to reorder our priorities in life.

Place the needs of the poor before your own needs.

Make the last first.

Making the last first in our lives

Is all about belonging,

Of being in community,

Of living as benefactors of God’s inheritance;

Of God’s amazing grace.

Jesus does one other amazing thing here.

Belonging to the “Kingdom of God Club”

And accepting the inheritance,

Is about rejecting the idols of this world.

When we think of idols,

We are most likely to think of a golden calf and pagan worship.

Not so fast, partner!

An idol is anything that is owned, possessed, or sought after

That steals attention from God,

Impairs our ability to discern God’s will, and

Damages our ability to fulfill God’s will for our lives.

Stuff becomes our idols.

The house, the car, our property, our savings;

All of it, from man-caves to the Mercedes in the driveway,

From flower beds to 401k’s,

… all of it has the ability

To become the focus and purpose of our life

In place of …

In substitution for …

Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Property and wealth can become a barrier between us and those Jesus calls us to serve.

It makes it nearly impossible to follow him

Unless and until we remove those barriers.

Give it away.


Even still, recognize the fact

That we are dependent on God

If you and I are ever going to get through the eye of a needle.

Getting to “follow me”

Means that we are willing to go out on a limb.

We are willing to stop trusting in ourselves and our own accumulated resources.

It means that we are willing to place our trust in Jesus, and

Follow him wherever he leads.

I have to sit on my hands, close my mouth, and submit my will

All the time

If I am to faithfully follow Christ.

This is my choice.

It isn’t a simple one.

But, for me, it’s the right choice.

I invite you to make the same personal choice.

Allow Thy will be done; not my will be done.

Getting to “follow me”

Means belonging to a community of people

Who are crazy enough for Jesus

To place the needs of the poor in front of our own.

Being Christ’s disciple doesn’t fit in American politics.

We don’t comfortably fit in an

Endlessly consumer driven, materialistic, self-centered world.

Christians don’t belong in a world that is racist,

That doesn’t welcome the sojourner, the alien, or the refugee.

We don’t belong in this kingdom, or any other earthly kingdom;

We belong in God’s kingdom!

We belong kneeling beside Jesus

Washing the feet of others,

Serving the poor;

Those who live in poverty

And those whose spirit is broken.

Stop blaming welfare abusers.

Start thinking about single parent moms trying to raise a family.

Think about elders, spent down and spent out,

In the twilight days of life,

Feeling warehoused until they die.

Think about our neighbors who weave cloth

Sunup to sundown

For seven bucks a month,

So I can wear beautiful stoles and

My Thanksgiving table can be adorned with a lovely table runner.

Think about our friends whose delayed development

Means a lifetime of dependence, isolation, segregation, and loneliness.

Think flood victims, hurricane victims, and those who have lost their homes to wild fires.

Think about refugees at the boarder yearning to be free.

Think about people who lost everything to addictions, medical conditions,

Or just plain lousy circumstances and tough luck.

Think about the poor.

Think about others first.

Serve others

Before thinking about ourselves.

“Blessed are the poor,” Jesus preached.

Who are the poor in your life?

Who are the poor Christ is calling you to include in this belonging community?

It is time to act:


sell what you own, and

give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then


follow me.”

Go. Sell. Give. Come.

“Follow me,” Jesus commands.

Getting to “follow me”

Is a daunting, yet awesome task.

I’m here to assure you,

It is well worth your effort.

Finally, to receive an inheritance

Someone must die.

To lead our lives the way Jesus did,

To discern and follow God’s will,

Means we must be willing to follow Jesus to his cross.

Selling all that I own and giving the money to the poor

Is relatively simple

Compared to being willing to give up my own life

For the sake of Jesus and his Gospel.

Christ died to grant us this inheritance.

Where, death, is thy sting,

Come Easter morning and

Our resurrected Lord steps out of his tomb?

Death no longer has a hold of us.

Will our death be painful for our family and loved ones? certainly.

Mourning and grief still cuts like a knife.

Yet, belonging

Provides a divine inheritance;

The gift of eternal life.

Dearly beloved,

Don’t work for a place in heaven.

There are no tickets to be had.

Simply belong.

Take your place with me,

Side-by-side with Jesus.

May we trust Jesus enough

To sell as much as we can,

To give all we can to the poor.

May the bonds of belonging to the Body of Christ

Give us the courage

To make the last first and

To take our place at the end of the line.

Belong, and invite others to belonging.

Be one with Christ and one with each other.

Claim your inheritance.

Eternal life is already yours.